Bolduc Park: A history of giving to local communities
By CAROL ANDERSON Thompson-Ames Historical Society
Article Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2007
As the colorful foliage begins to fade, our thoughts begin to turn toward the holidays and the annual season of giving.
There are those among us, however, who continue to contribute to society all year long. When Gilford's Thompson-Ames Historical Society researched the history of Bolduc Park, it uncovered a spirit of giving and caring in its founder, Bob Bolduc.
Bolduc was born into a farming family, being the 13th of 14 children. Growing up on the 1779 Bolduc Farm in Gilford, he learned lessons that would prepare him for his missions later in life. He learned to appreciate history, he obtained an incredible work ethic, and as Bolduc himself said, "I was taught to give back."
And give back he has.
For so many years now, most of us have known Bolduc as the owner of Piche's Ski & Sport Shops, which his sons, Robert Jr. and Patrick, now run. He began work at this local ski shop when it was still owned by Francis Piche. Still a kid at the time, Bolduc worked with the understanding that he could leave, at a moment's notice, to help his father on the farm. Rising early each day, he put in a day's work on the farm before he ever went to work at Piche's. Upon finishing work at the ski shop, he would head back to the farm and round out his day again with evening farm chores. This type of work schedule taught Bolduc how to accomplish as much as he could each day.
During the l970s, Bolduc purchased 22 acres on the Laconia-Gilford line. Most people at that time knew this acreage as the Fortin property; the last owners being Leon Fortin and his wife, Marion. The Fortins were very close friends of the Bolducs, and they spent many Christmases with the Bolduc family on the farm.
Before Fortin owned the property, the previous owner used the facility as a slaughterhouse, beginning in the l930s. When Fortin bought the property, he used it to raise and train racehorses, even putting in a half-mile, and subsequently, a three-quarter mile track. Also, he ran a rug cleaning business from this location. Bolduc and his sister, Anita, continued that rug business with long-standing customers up until six years ago.
By the time Bolduc bought the property in the 70s, all of the buildings were in tear-down condition.
"I bought the property on a Friday and on the following Monday, I was told to fix up the buildings or take them down," said Bolduc.
Most people would have opted to remove the buildings and start from scratch.
"I couldn't do that," said Bolduc. "The Fortins were like a second set of parents to me; these were their buildings. Besides, once a historic barn or building is taken down, it can never be duplicated; it's gone forever."
So began the arduous task of restoring old, unstable buildings; not at all easy work. Using cables, jacking up the buildings, and then straightening them were just the beginning of a new life for these structures. He has helped restore other historic buildings using the same techniques he learned during his restoration.
With the rehabilitation underway, Bolduc set out to put into place the vision he had for the property when he first purchased it: a location at which to hold Piche's Cross Country Ski Races.
Along with skiing great Gary Allen, Bolduc proceeded to clear cross-country ski trails by hand. Considering the heavy, thick brush, the clearing was a tremendous challenge. The trails were completed in l978, and skiers could then ski and receive free instruction.
Bolduc's giving didn't stop there. He envisioned a year-round facility which offered skiing in the winter and golfing during the warmer months. This was the birth of Bolduc Park. The creation of the Park was funded entirely by Bolduc himself, and he also took on the job of designing and creating the golf greens.
Having a property which straddles two towns created its own set of unique challenges. Both the City of Laconia and the Town of Gilford had to approve all designs, plans, and permits. Bolduc was once told that he would have one chance in a thousand to gain approval for the construction of a golf course in the middle of a wetland area and within a residential neighborhood. Bolduc, with his irrepressible optimism, replied, "That's okay, all I need is one chance!"
Through hard work, dogged determination, and help from his friend, Steve Smith, of Steve Smith and Associates, Bolduc got his chance.
Bolduc Park officially opened in the summer of l994. That same year, Bolduc accepted an award from the City of Laconia for the best use of the land. The Park is available to everyone, without any restrictions, and is dedicated to being available as a recreational facility to be shared by all in the community. The Park has no paid employees and is run by an all-volunteer staff, maintaining a completely self-sufficient budget.
Many community members also contributed countless volunteer hours and supplies to help Bolduc make his vision become a reality. In the spring of 2000, an equipment shed and sand shed were built by local volunteers, including students from the Huot Technical Center at Laconia High School. Whitten Construction donated all the site work that was needed. And, in the fall of 2000, Pike Industries donated the paving of the entire parking lot.
Bolduc's generosity and great community spirit became further evident in May of l996, when he and his wife, Marilyn, donated the Park to the Bolduc Park Association. Included in that donation was all the required golf course equipment and a large number of golf carts. Bolduc remains with the organization as superintendent.
Bolduc's spirit of giving is to be applauded, as he sets a wonderful example that "giving back" can and should be a year-round goal. Bolduc is to be admired for striving to maintain the history of this property, while also allowing it to offer something that makes sense in today's complex society.
Gilford's Thompson-Ames Historical Society wishes to thank Bob Bolduc for sharing the history of Bolduc Park. If you would like to share an historical story with the Society, e-mail thomames worldpath.net. Be sure to check our website for upcoming events at www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org.